Hiking in Maine: Preserving the exceptional views is part of the vision
Moxie Bald Mountain rises to 2,630 feet in the rugged country of Bald Mountain Township, Somerset County, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail between the Kennebec River and Monson. Scorched mostly bare by wildfires over the years, Moxie Bald’s expansive open granite ledges reward hikers with extraordinary views in all directions.
A small road sign and the metal footings of the old 1919 fire observation tower mark Moxie Bald’s summit. The tower, one of the 144 that once stood guard over the forests of Maine, was removed in 1994. From this vantage point – across the blue waters of Moxie Pond – Pleasant Pond Mountain and Mosquito Mountain rise up, all like Moxie Mountain southwest of the pond.
A mile and a half north via the AT and a blue side trail is the 2,350-foot north summit of Moxie Bald Mountain, a little-visited gem that features even more open rocky terrain. You’ll likely have the place to yourself as you take in the views stretching from the High Peaks region and the Canadian border around Jackman to Moosehead Lake and through the wild 100 miles to Katahdin.
East of sprawling Moxie Bald Mountain is Bald Mountain Pond, a 1,200-acre pristine expanse that has, incredibly, remained undeveloped over time, with the exception of only two rented camps. Popular with fishermen for its trout fishing, hikers on the AT also enjoyed the location, camping at the log lean-to on the north shore of the pond.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, among others in the conservation community, has long viewed Bald Mountain Pond as the highest priority conservation project along the entire 282 mile Maine AT Corridor. MATLT’s mission is to acquire and protect the land around the AT, and for the past 20 years the group has worked to buffer the AT with thousands of critical acres on Mount Abraham, Saddleback, White Cap, the Crockers and Mount Redington, so it’s no wonder the Moxie Bald region is in their sights.
âMoxie Bald and Bald Mountain Pond is the whole, undeveloped and intact,â said Simon Rucker, executive director of MATLT. âYou have ecological significance, AT you can go hiking, fishing, canoeing and camping.â
Bald Mountain Pond is home to Arctic char, known as blueback trout, native only to Alaska and Maine, and here it is only found in 14 ponds, according to Rucker. There is prime habitat for the Canada lynx and wetlands for waterfowl and wading birds. Classified as a âmid-altitude bald,â Moxie Bald is home to rare and fragile alpine and subalpine vegetation. There is also a large area of ââold spruce and fir forests.
âAll of these things are why it’s worth keeping them,â Rucker said.
Lo and behold, just over a year ago, the Trust for Public Land announced that it had purchased over 2,600 acres around Bald Mountain Pond and on the south ridge of Moxie Bald Mountain from Weyerhaeuser, the forest products company. . TPL worked with the State of Maine, the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, Poland Spring, the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and a handful of other partners to acquire the funds needed to make the agreement conservation a reality.
The NPS now owns and manages the additional land on Moxie Bald, while the MATLT owns and manages the land around Bald Mountain Pond. The Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is responsible for the public boat launch at the southern end of the pond, where there is road access from the south to Highway 16 in Moscow.
Day hikers can reach Moxie Bald Mountain via the AT from Troutdale Road at the south end of Moxie Pond, a moderate 5 mile (one way) hike that gains about 1,650 feet. Add another 3 mile round trip if you want to tackle the north summit. Backpackers can make this a one or two night hike by staying at AT Huts in Bald Mountain Brook and Bald Mountain Pond. Or you might just want to hike the entire 34 mile AT section from Caratunk to Monson, a fabulous three to four day trip.
Whichever way you choose to adventure on Moxie Bald, take in the stunning views and don’t forget to donate your hiking cap to the environmentalists for their incredible work in preserving this treasured place.
Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Hikes along the Maine Coast and editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish